I had the unusual pleasure of interviewing Senator Cory Booker early yesterday evening for The Daily Beast. We chatted for about twenty minutes on the phone and, because of a tight deadline, it took about six hours (I could have used twice that) and three cans of PBR to turn in something I was happy with. It went up this morning:
In the uncomfortable and often impractical space between politics and folklore, Cory Booker presides. Few politicians garner the celebrity that Senator Booker does, and fewer still seem so earnest and human while doing it. Booker has mastered a recipe for success and magnetism that few else have: mix small but principled actions with a huge talent for motivational public speaking, and even massive problems start to seem tractable.
From poverty to bipartisanship, Booker is most effective when he can focus on the minor and human details, like pledging to get dinner with every one of his Republican colleagues or inviting victims of Hurricane Sandy over to his house. Half of his accomplishments on this front almost read like satire: he’ll save you from a burning building, he’ll live on food stamps or go on a hunger strike, he’ll even shovel you out of your house if you’re snowed in. Just use the @CoryBooker Bat-Signal and he’s there.
There’s a storybook trajectory to Booker’s mythos, and it practically embodies Americana: from Stanford college football to a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford; from Yale Law School to the city council in Newark; from Newark’s mayor’s office to the U.S. Senate. Each step of the way, Booker has thrived on the philosophy that your actions matter more than what you preach.
Most recently, Booker announced on Twitter that he would be going vegan, at least until the end of the year. This isn’t a sudden change in Booker’s principles—he’s been a vegetarian for more than two decades, personally rescued a dog in crisis on severaloccasions, and campaigned to establish a no-kill animal shelter in Newark (unfortunately, it fell through). Instead, Booker is trying to do a better job of living out the principles he already has. There’s an almost Christ-like quality at play: living in a mobile home on one of Newark’s worst drug corners and tweeting with a stripper (NSFW!) are only a few steps removed from washing the feet of the poor and accepting perfume from a prostitute.“I want to try to live my own values as consciously and purposefully as I can,” Booker told me in a phone interview. “Being vegan for me is a cleaner way of not participating in practices that don’t align with my values.”
You can read the rest of the interview here.
I didn’t discuss it in my article, but my trajectory mirrors Booker’s quite a bit. I also started going vegetarian on somewhat of a whim (I was 19 and bored, mostly), and ended up sticking with it. I tried going vegan once a few years later, but it didn’t work out. My second time was also something of an experiment, and it went much better. I’ve stuck with it for more than a year and a half.
I’m really excited that Booker is making this step and being so public about it. I’m a huge fan of having models we can look to for our moral behavior, and I think Booker fits that bill really nicely.
Speaking of veganism, the Patheos atheist channel just brought on board Jason Torpy. Though I suspect Jason and I disagree here and there about religion, I’m glad to have another vegan onboard the atheist channel (I’ve written before about why I think atheists should be vegans). Head over to his blog and welcome him!